$100 Million 'National Treasure' Found at Flea Market

Jun 14, 2010, 09:28 ET from Heritage Collectors' Society

BUCKS COUNTY, Pa., June 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A true copy of the original handwritten 1776 Declaration of Independence rescued from obscurity by Tom Lingenfelter of Bucks County, Pennsylvania is to be offered for sale at a yet undetermined venue.  Lingenfelter, a former Counter-intelligence Special Agent and President of the Heritage Collectors' Society, purchased the Declaration at a Bucks County flea market 20 years ago.

Believing it to be merely a souvenir copy his research showed, to the contrary, he had discovered the only true facsimile copy of the original Declaration of Independence ever produced.  Lingenfelter's meticulous detective work uncovered astonishing facts about the document's production, including the existence of only two 'anastatic' copies, one which sold at Thomas Birch's Sons Auctioneers, Philadelphia in 1891.

Birch's described it as "an anastatic copy on parchment from the original...for all historical purposes more important than the original, as to make this they allowed the original document to be placed under a certain process, which enabled the projectors of the scheme to take a ...facsimile ...from the original.  That this outrage was perpetrated the original Declaration only too plainly shows as it is so faded as to be hardly discernible to the naked eye...and from which they were enabled to take a few impressions...this, therefore, really portrays more truthfully what the Document was than the original itself."

Robert Lucas, Historical Document & Ephemera Consultant, said, "this is a truly significant historic find, especially since no one knew it even existed. It answers the mystery of what happened to the original Declaration, America's National Treasure. It certainty deserves to be described as priceless - far more than any $80 million painting."

The anastatic process produced a perfect likeness of the original using an acid-based solution, which occasionally damaged or destroyed originals.  The Chamberlain Collection of the Boston Library noted in 1897 the original Declaration "was nearly faded out, a mishap said to have been caused many years ago by taking a copy by the anastatic process."    

The anastatic engrossed (handwritten) Declaration is more important and definitely more rare than a copy of one of the reported 200+ Dunlap typeset (printed) copies distributed July 5, 1776, the last being sold at auction by Sotheby's for $8.1 million dollars and currently estimated to exceed $20 million dollars. The anastatic Declaration is more rare and arguably more important then paintings by Warhol, Picasso, DeKooning, and Jasper Johns which have sold for $71 million to $140 million dollars.

Lingenfelter's research uncovered the fact that Independence National Park possessed, unknowingly, since 1846, the only other known anastatic Declaration.  "Tom Lingenfelter has made an extraordinary discovery," said American Historian Dr. Jeffrey Ryan, PhD.  "These priceless and rare examples are the only direct copies of the original Declaration ever made, and the fact that the resultant damage to the original made another copy impossible amplifies its importance.  The detective work involved in tracing the significance of the obscure, short-lived anastatic technique that made this faithful duplication possible enriches the story of this National Treasure," said Dr. Ryan.

It is currently on exhibit at the Fraunces Tavern Museum, the New York City site where George Washington bade farewell to his Continental Army Officers, December 4th, 1783.

Lingenfelter hopes the ultimate purchaser will make the anastatic Declaration available to be displayed in the National Archives alongside the greatly damaged 1776 Original to allow everyone to experience the Declaration of Independence in all its original perfection.  

More details of this extraordinary discovery can be found at www.Heritagecs.com.

Interviews, photo, etc.

215-230-5330 (Tom)


SOURCE Heritage Collectors' Society